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Why People Don’t Trust Government

Why People Don’t Trust Government

Edited by Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Philip D. Zelikow, and David C. King

ISBN 9780674940574

Publication date: 10/05/1997

Confidence in American government has been declining for three decades. Three-quarters of Americans said they trusted the Federal government to do the right thing in 1964. Today, only a quarter do. Why the decline? Is this mistrust a healthy reflection of America's long-lasting skepticism of a strong state? Is mistrust a problem for the future of governance?

Bringing together essays by leading Harvard scholars, this book explores the roots of mistrust. It first examines government's current scope, its actual performance, and citizens' perceptions of its performance. It then assesses many possible explanations that have been offered for the decline of trust, including the end of the Cold War, elevated expectations following World War II, a weakened economy, the effects of globalization, resentment over political scandals, and incompetence of bureaucrats. The book clarifies thinking about the sources of public disaffection.

Mistrust, the contributors find, is largely unrelated to national economic conditions, to challenges of a global economy, to the Cold War, or to bumbling bureaucrats and venal politicians. Rather, they show that the most likely culprits are all around us—an interacting blend of cultural and political conflicts stirred by an increasingly corrosive news media.

Praise

  • [Why People Don't Trust Government], and its subject matter, are being taken seriously in the highest political circles on both sides of the Atlantic. Nye was among a group of American experts led by Hillary Clinton who recently came to Britain for a seminar on the book attended by, among others, Tony Blair, who left clutching a copy. Nye could hardly be better qualified for his subject. As well as studying government, he has practised it, serving for two years (1977-79) as undersecretary of state for security assistance, science and technology during the Carter administration and then in two posts under Clinton, first as Chairman of the National Intelligence Council and then (1994-95) at defence.

    —Huw Richards, Times Higher Education Supplement

Authors

  • Joseph S. Nye, Jr., is Dean of the Faculty and Don K. Price Professor of Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
  • Philip D. Zelikow is White Burkett Miller Professor of History at the University of Virginia.
  • David C. King is Senior Lecturer in Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 352 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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